The teacher’s role in an Project Based Learning (PBL) classroom is unique. I’m still figuring it out – and probably will be for years to come. That being said, I’m confident about a few things the teacher must do to make PBL click on all cylinders.
Here are 10 things a teacher should do to facilitate PBL effectively:
- Find a hook and deliver it well. Grab the students’ imaginations and leave them with lots of questions, wanting to learn more.
- Set an engaging, thought provoking driving question but leave plenty of room for inquiry. If you set the driving question, let the students decide how they will answer it. Better still, let the students generate the driving question.
- Gather materials that the students can’t get for themselves. Nothing kills inquiry quicker than a curious kid not having any way to answer their questions. This include resources
- Serve as a mentor for individual students and small groups. Help them figure out how to complete their project. Help them to see themselves.
- Facilitate whole class discussions. When students are working in small groups or pairs for an extended period of time, there must be whole class activities as well. This maintains the learning community of the group. Use discussion protocols like socratic seminars, rotating fishbowls and the like to get eveyone involved.
- Provide sufficient structure and support so that students don’t get stuck. Help them to plan, monitor progress, and assess their results. Keep the students focused on the big picture. Remind them often of the driving question and revisit milestone dates and final product dates daily.
- Help students to determine success criteria for each project. Facilitate analysis of various models that will help them to see what an end product might look like. If you feel a rubric is needed, have them create it.
- Provide descriptive feedback. Don’t evaluate their work in progress but give them information to help them see how to move forward. Don’t let them bog down for too long.
- Recruit an audience. Students should be presenting their learning to an audience outside of the classroom. Invite parents, community members, other staff members, district administrators, local university staff and students, local scientists, local business people – anyone who may have an interest in what you are doing.
- Allow time for reflection, for students and for yourself. Use that reflection to improve the next project for students and yourself. Listen to the students very carefully and learn from them.
Photo of mathematician Ronald Graham juggling used under cc licence from the Wikimedia commons
Previous Posts in the PBL Series
Part 3 - What PBL is and what it isn’t